You Can Take The Girl Out of Hicksville….

In my case, however, it’s Ricer-ville.

Yes, the world of body kits, neon underglow lights, cut springs, garish paint jobs, completely ridiculous and ineffective “aero,” giant rims with no camber….That’s the world I grew up in. Think 2001’s Fast and the Furious, except real life. And instead of street racing, think poor college kids that hacked together most of what we had.

Back in 2005, I finally acquired my first ricermobile: A 1990 Nissan 240sx. I had searched for this car for years, and I finally found it. It was red, it was a fastback, it had a SOHC motor, and power nothing. I didn’t care – I loved it. I drove it around non-stop – it had no AC, the suspension was tired (at best), and the clutch…well….it had seen better days. But when you’re 20, none of that matters.

In 2007, I was hit head-on by a little old lady making a left-hand turn across two lanes of oncoming traffic. I thought my life was over. With a little help and some excellent forum searching, I managed to salvage the car, and turned it into an über-JDM Sil80 (or Sil40, if you want to be very specific, since I had a 2.4L engine and not the Japanese 1.8T).

ImageThen, in 2008, tragedy struck. I got a job with a 100-mile round trip commute, and my beloved Sileighty wasn’t going to last. I sold it, and it broke my heart. I cried the whole way home.

In late 2010, an opportunity presented itself that would a) hone my autocross skills; b) get me another 240sx (because they really are an addiction); and c) allow two friends to codrive with me. Behold, my HICAS model 240sx. It had no brakes, no ECU, the clutch had disintegrated, and was missing a lot of other parts. But it didn’t matter – I was happier than I had been in a long time.

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I did lots of work on this car – including building my first engine from scratch, after I spun a bearing during an extremely hot day at the races, and my oil ran thin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my first pull or install, but it was definitely my first build, and I was very proud of myself.

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After campaigning this car nationally for a year, it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t (and wasn’t’ ever going to be) a competitive platform. Baby Panda, or Baby for short, has been relegated to summer commuting duty – because what’s better than a ridiculously loud, fast-accelerating, lowered car with more in suspension parts than the car is worth?

Of course, once bitten, twice shy. And I love this car, despite it hibernating for 8 months of the year, every year. I am very sad when she lives under a cover, 33 miles away from me, because sometimes when I go to visit her, I swear I can hear her crying.

And so, we enter Baby’s substitute:

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 And well, no, it’s not the same. I would never have positive camber, or teeny tiny diameter rims. The only stickers on Baby are from racing, and…well…

IMG_20140318_170659907_HDRIMG_20140318_170640920_HDRNOS and a huge sound system? No. And because every good ricer needs a PS3 controller and console in the car, like RJ DeVera in the first F&F movie…. No, I can’t say this car is ANYTHING like my Baby, despite it being the same model. But what I love about it is the nostalgia. These silly things – the gauges on the A-pillar, the crappy harnesses, the gaming console, the stickers, the ugly rims, the drilled and slotted pads, the HORRIBLY-WRONG-DIRECTIONALLY-BENT WING…. all of it brings me back to the days when we were too excited and enthusiastic to know better. We knew big budget upgrades, and brand names like Endless, HKS, and JIC meant we could, in theory, win a 1/4 mile race.

Take me back to the days when we were naive; we were just happy to have a car with upgrades. I might be a real racer now, but deep down, I’m still a ricer at heart.

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